Harlequin Romance #1403
Spoiler-Free Review 🙂
2 1/2 Stars
A Star of a Lower Magnitude
Whisper to the Stars is a vintage-contemporary romance that revolves around a trope hard to find nowadays: unrequited love. It starts out strong, with the promise of a deeply moving emo story. And it delivers, up to a point. Then it falters. Somewhere in the middle, it loses sight of what a romance is supposed to do: to engage and enthrall the reader.
Recently I read and reviewed for Sweet Savage Flame Yesterday’s Love by Marsha Manning, pen name of the prolific Hettie Grimstead. I was so enchanted that I sought out other romances by the same author. Which led me to Whisper to the Stars. To say I had high expectations would be putting it mildly.
It was first published in 1963 by Mills & Boon. The version I read is, of course, the transatlantic Harlequin reprint. Published in 1970, with three later editions (that I know of). It got pretty good ratings on Goodreads, so I must assume it was a crowd-pleaser.
For me, at least it was a good try.
To Love in Vain
Tessa Chievers is a young English woman living on the (fictitious) Italian Island of Raltia near the Bay of Naples. With her is her widower father, a reclusive painter of undoubted talent but questionable sanity. Tessa loves her home turf and its people but also longs to see London and experience life in the fast lane.
Then Colin Kenward turns up. At first he seems like a typical tourist, snapping photos of the island in general and Tessa in particular. She falls in love with him quickly. He doesn’t reciprocate.
But once he returns home to London, those pictures he took result in the first of many surprises in the storyline. Which I won’t reveal; I’m no fan of spoilers.
Suffice it to say the upshot is a glamorous new life for Tessa. Though it doesn’t include Colin feeling for her what she feels for him. Instead it leads to the story going off in a most unfortunate direction.
It’s pretty easy to tell early on that Colin is the hero. So the reader would naturally expect the plot to focus on Tessa and him.
Instead, much of it, too much, deals with her rebound relationship with someone else. During the second half of the novel, the hero rarely appears. Why is the author spending so much time and wordage on a relationship that we readers know won’t end in an HEA? And is so dull, so artificial, so unromantic compared to the heroine’s earlier passion for the hero?
But Wait, There’s More
There are several secondary characters; many come to life and make the narrative more interesting. My favorites include a smart-alec gossip columnist for a Fleet Street tabloid. And a cute little poodle named Snowball. Yeah, I go for pets in rom-fic!
But there’s also an absurd other-woman, a stuck-up beauty/spoiled rich girl/femme fatale. The author handles her very clumsily.
In the first half of the novel, the plot moves along at a nice brisk pace. But eventually, it bogs down. Though the early events and situations seem natural and believable, even the surprises, by the latter chapters, contrivances take over. The story seems to keep going on life support if you know what I mean.
So, in conclusion, I’d say Whisper to the Stars has its moments. But not enough to make it a satisfying read.
It’s available on the major bookseller websites.